LOLO AND LEMANU TAKE EARLY LEAD IN MANU’A AND ABSENTEE BALLOT COUNT
The gubernatorial team of Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Sen. Lemanu Peleti Mauga took an early lead in yesterday’s run off race hours before polls were closed at 6 p.m., leading in the local and off island absentee ballots, as well as all five polling stations in the Manu’a Island group.
ABSENTEE BALLOT COUNT
Counting of the local and off island absentee ballots was held at the Election Office in Tafuna, where a total of 659 ballots were counted, with 340 to the Lolo and Lemanu and 319 to the Faoa and Taufete’e.
Less than ten minutes into the counting process, Chief Election Officer, Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono halted the process, telling a senior Election official — who was the caller — to slow down a bit and not go too fast.
Soliai said he wanted to make sure that the outcome of the count is not questioned at a later time. He then ordered his staff to re-count all paper ballots already counted to make sure they match with the total so far on the chalk board — and they did. Soliai then called for the counting to resume and in a manner that was not too fast.
There were no “spoiled” ballots — which are ballots not counted due to problems such as having boxes for both candidates marked, or a ballot which was left blank.
Asked later as to the total number of off-island absentee ballots received for the run off — which has been a major issue in past elections — Soliai told Samoa News that he will have those numbers sometime soon.
During the 2008 run off race, a total of 606 ballots were counted and this included only 26 off-island ballots received in time to be included in the special election.
At yesterday’s absentee ballot counting, poll watchers and news reporters signed a form promising they would not publicly release the results until the polls were closed at 6 p.m.
The five polling stations in the Manu’a island group completed their voting process yesterday around 11 a.m. after all electors on the voter rolls had cast their ballots. Once the polls were closed, the counting process got underway and was completed about an hour later.
Unofficial results from the five polling stations show Lolo and Lemanu with 178 votes compared to their opponents, Faoa and Taufete’e with 97 votes.
On Tutuila, some small polling stations in outlying villages also closed early, following by the counting process with the results called into the Election Office before election officials and ballot boxes were escorted by police back to the Election Office.
See separate story in today’s edition for the outcome of the gubernatorial race.